How to Tie Tippet to Fly Line

Published on 03/02/2023 · 8 min readKnots are one of the most basic skills in fly fishing. Here's how to tie one of the most important ones.

Tying tippet to the end of fly line is one of the most essential connections in fly fishing. It’s often overlooked, and yet, can be priceless to an angler when on the water. While most fly lines now offer welded loops making a loop-to-loop connection possible, understanding the right knots to use and how to tie them will save you at some point. And at some point, you as a fly fisher will find yourself with the leader tag end in your right hand and the 5x tippet in your left hand and you'll remember and appreciate this article.

Tying the tippet to fly line may seem like just another knot, but as an angler who has fly fished for fish over 200 pounds, I can tell you that it is a crucial skill to effectively tie strong and proper knots that hold up to the strong and powerful demands of large fish. When casting at a tarpon that is commonly 150 pounds, there may be little stress on a fly line to leader knot, but I can assure you that as soon as the angler sets the hook, there is no turning back and the angler’s knot will be put to the test. These laws of physics and fishing can also be applied for the even lighter, smaller fly fishing tackle when fishing smaller freshwater species or ocean-run salmon. The connection point of your fly line to leader and tippet must be tied properly and effectively to ensure the best fishing results when the angler is on the water, with no lost fish at that.

The Basics

When tying a tippet to fly line, the first step is making sure that you have the proper fly line products. You’ll want to make sure that you have the proper fly line and tippet line pound test matched up correctly for the proper fly presentation or the proper fly outfit. For example, pairing a Rio Outbound Tropical or Suppleflex tippet four- to 15-pound test and a corresponding four- to 15-pound floating or sinking Rio Gold or General Purpose saltwater fly line that properly matches the weighted applications. This is most important for creating a lasting tippet connection—not only between the two lines and fly outfit but also for the angler so they are fishing the properly weighted lines to fish simply and effectively.

When starting the process of tying the fly line to tippet, it may be best to try a few simple practice knots before tying the actual connection point. This can help the angler make sure they are tying it properly without any snags or simple mistakes and ensures that they are truly tying their best work where it matters most. After all, these knots are what keep you connected to the fish!

These tippet knots are essential to everyday fly anglers, whether you’re fishing for tarpon in Florida bay or fishing for ocean-run steelhead in British Columbia. Every landed fish will test your fishing knowledge, skill, and tackle—your fly line and leader knots just happen to be part of that.

Know Your Knots

Some of the knots that are best to tie when tying tippet to fly line are the surgeon knot, the Orvis tippet knot, the nail knot, and the blood knot. All of these knots have great hold and are simple, yet effective enough to keep your tippet and line together.

Surgeon’s Knot

Photo by Ryan Collins

The surgeon's and double surgeon’s loop is an important fishing knot because it is used to attach different line diameters. These lines of different diameters could be the fly line and tippet or different tippet strengths. The surgeon's knot or double surgeon’s knot is created by making a large double-lined loop comprised of the fly line loop and leader material. The knot is officially formed by creating a double-lined loop, then wrapping both tag ends inside out around the loop in opposite directions towards their own main line. Then simply cinch down the lines to transform the wrapped loop into a knot. The knot is complete once the tag ends are trimmed.

  1. Make a large double-lined loop comprised of the fly line loop and leader material
  2. Wrap both tag ends inside out around the loop in opposite directions toward their own main line
  3. Cinch down the lines to transform the wrapped loop into a knot
  4. Trim the tag ends

This knot is great for connecting fly lines in the seven- to 15-pound weight class. It’s a relatively compact knot, but it adds a little weighted leverage when casting as most fly fishing knots do. The surgeon’s knot is very handy to tie quickly in a time crunch since it uses minimal line to tie; it’s considered to be an efficient knot to tie.

This knot is great for fishing for many different species an angler may encounter, from throwing dry flies to average-sized trout to even pilchard and crab patterns for small and larger tarpon.

Orvis Tippet Knot

Photo by Ryan Collins

The second knot a fly fisherman can be used to tie fly line to tippet is the Orvis knot. This knot is relatively easy to tie and is also a quick tie, making it perfect for anglers who need to re-tie on the water or during a fishing trip. This knot is tied by forming a singular twist from the two tag ends twisted together. Then, the conjoining tag ends are wrapped around the main lines together to create a second loop, almost like a figure eight. The tag ends are then wrapped around the inside the top end of the first loop twice before being cinched down to form a strong and small Orvis tippet knot.

Orvis Knot Instructions

  1. Form a singular twist from the two tag ends
  2. Wrap the two tag ends around the main lines to create a second loop (like a figure eight)
  3. Wrap the tag ends around the inside the top end of the first loop twice
  4. Cinched down to form a strong and small knot

This knot is great because it pulls against itself, distributing the weight and tension well from a singular point. It puts the point of stress on the loop and cinches itself instead of just a singular line, allowing for better dispersion of the tension throughout the knot and through the connection of the lines. This knot also slides through the guides of the fly rod fairly easily and has bonus added weight for leverage of the fly cast. It is perfect for the five- to 15-pound weight class since this knot truly is one of the strongest knots when tying leader or tippet to fly line.

Nail Knot

Photo by Ryan Collins

Also, the nail knot. It’s one of the older forms of tying a tippet to fly line connection and is known for its slender diameter and free-flowing movements through the guides of the fly rod. When tying the Nail Knot, begin by overlapping the two tag end lines in a straight line. Then, by using a nail, pencil, straw, small hollow tube, coffee stirrer, or any nail-like object, the tag end is wrapped around itself and the nail in a spiraling fashion. After six wraps of the tag end, the line is then pushed through the same space the nail was occupying, and the tag end is pulled through in between the wrapped line. The main line can then be pulled taught, forming a cinched, slender knot.

Nail Knot Instructions

  1. Overlapping the two tag end lines
  2. Using any nail-like object, the tag end is wrapped around itself and the nail in a spiraling fashion
  3. After six wraps of the tag end, the line is then pushed through the same space the nail was occupying
  4. Pull the tag ends through the wrapped line
  5. Pull the main line taught forming a cinched, slender knot

The nail knot is a great connection for trout fishing smaller streams and light lines, but use it for 2 to 7wt setups. This knot relies heavily on tension to hold the knot, and in most cases, too much tension on the knot will break it. If you have trouble tying this knot, Curated sells a handy nail knot tool to make it a cinch.

Blood Knot

Finally, don't discount a blood knot for connecting monofilament or lines of similar diameter. Consider the blood knot an option when you need to attach the back end of the leader line to the fly fishing line or perhaps when adding a leader butt to the end of your fly line.

Overlap the two lines to be joined, securing with your thumb and forefinger. Coil one end around the other line about six times. Tuck the end back between the lines. Repeat the process with the other line, tucking the end back between the lines in the opposite direction. Tighten with saliva and clip.

Blood Knot Instructions

  1. Overlap the two lines to be joined
  2. Coil one end around the other line about six times
  3. Repeat the process with the other line, tucking the end back between the lines in the opposite direction
  4. Tighten with saliva and clip

All that is left is for you to connect the tag end of the tippet to the eye of the hook. This is often accomplished by an improved clinch knot. As a bonus, while most of the time you will tie a clinch knot and trim the excess tag end, you may choose to leave a section of tippet intact to be used for a dropper fly.

All three of these knots are a great choice to tie your fly line to your tippet. So get out there on the water and give it a shot! If you have any questions or want to find the best line and tippet for you, chat with your Fly Fishing Expert here on Curated.

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